Firm-level upgrading in low-and-medium-technology industries in emerging markets: the role of learning in networks

Yoruk, Deniz Eylem (2014) Firm-level upgrading in low-and-medium-technology industries in emerging markets: the role of learning in networks. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis investigates how involvement in networks contributes to firm-level
upgrading in emerging markets. In the 1990s, the international de-localisation of
production and global integration has brought about a process of upgrading for firms in
the transition and latecomer industrialising countries that allowed them to approach the
technological frontier and enhance their competitive position. Hence, the firm-level
upgrading became a process of improving technological and organisational deficiencies
in the firms’ knowledge base, particularly through knowledge transfer and learning in
networks they have involved in, enabling them to adjust to the new environment by
doing things differently and/or better as well as doing different things.

The literature on upgrading stresses the effects of value chains and production networks
on industrial upgrading, while the role of various learning mechanisms is largely
unexplored. Employing an evolutionary perspective, this thesis contributes to existing
analyses by considering the role of knowledge networks and by using ‘learning in
networks’ as a bridging concept, by which the interaction between inter- and intraorganisational
knowledge transfer is demonstrated to have significant bearing on
hastening the process of catching-up in emerging markets. Specifically, this thesis
examines what characteristics of the networks of Polish food-processing and clothing
firms affect learning mechanisms in an inter-organisational context and how these
mechanisms combined with internal factors supporting internalisation of externally
acquired knowledge (including firm strategy orientation) contribute to various types of
firm-level upgrading during the period 1989-2001.

Methodologically, this thesis proposes a dynamic model of firm-level upgrading with a
novel unit of analysis: the relationships of the firm. So, rather than using firm case
studies, it provides statistical evidence typically lacking in the upgrading research,
while not sacrificing the in-depth nature of case studies, as each relationship of the
firms studied has been investigated through face-to-face interviews that are translated
into a dataset of relationships analysed using multinomial logistic regressions.

First, the network-related characteristics of external learning mechanisms were
identified and then used as a reference point in the upgrading analysis. The results for
product upgrading largely confirm the previous findings in the literature. However, the
upgrading of production processes is a function of learning from advances in science
and technology through knowledge networks. Strikingly, learning-by-interacting in
production networks actually appears to impede managerial (rather than functional)
upgrading, a previously unexplored upgrading type, which is also shown to be a prerequisite
for functional upgrading. While learning-by-training and research within the
firm is a potent condition for external learning mechanisms to contribute to all of the
upgrading types, for successful functional upgrading, it is a must. These findings show
the importance of the use of an integrative approach to learning in research on
upgrading.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labour > HD0072 Economic development. Development economics. Economic growth
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labour > HD2321 Industry
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 19 Mar 2014 07:08
Last Modified: 18 Sep 2015 13:35
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/47684

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